Married To A Marquess

By: Joyce Alec

Chapter One

Miss Alice Henstridge stood silently at the back of the church, feeling woefully unprepared for the step she was about to take. The church was welcomed a dozen guests, she had been told, but Alice was sure she did not know any of them other than her parents.

Most of them were friends and acquaintances of her husband-to-be, William Bexley, the Marquess of Worthington. The quick wedding had been as much of a surprise to her as it had been to the guests, having been quite unprepared for her mother and father to announce her betrothal in the societal papers before discussing such a thing with her.

Then again, Alice was well used to doing exactly as her parents requested, going along with whatever notion they thought was best. She had done so her entire life, and when they had told her that she would be marrying William in three short weeks, she had accepted her betrothal with just the correct amount of delight and thankfulness.

Now, however, she was not so certain that this was the best course of action. ‘Wedding jitters’ her mother had called it, and Alice attempted to believe that this was all it was. After all, did not many couples marry for life without knowing much about the other?

Alice lifted her chin and hoped that she looked well enough, even though she had heard from one of the many, many guests who had called upon her since her betrothal that her groom to be was less than pleased about the wedding.

She had simply smiled and brushed off the comments, pretending they did not slam into her heart with a twinge of pain. Even though she had accepted the situation with gratefulness, Alice did not want to marry a man who was disinclined with the very idea of matrimony. That could not be a strong foundation on which to build a marriage, could it?

So troubled had she been, that Alice had sought out her father on one occasion. Timidly, she had laid out her concerns, trying to ignore the deep frown on her father’s face as she spoke.

“Why has he agreed to marry me if he does not care for matrimony in the slightest?”

“Because he wishes to do so,” her father had replied, firmly. “Before his father died, he made a great many stipulations in his will. In short, his father made sure that the man does not receive any of his funds until he is wed. His mother, Lady Worthington, is thrilled about the match because of the dowry you bring and has made it clear to her son what his expectations are. He will be there to wed you, have no doubt. Lord Worthington is looking forward to the union    .”

Alice had not had the strength to reply, to question the decision further. Instead, she had meekly thanked her father for explaining things to her and retired back to her rooms. The thoughts troubled her still, but she had been forced to press them to the back of her mind.

The truth was that Alice did not feel like she was likely to wed. At seventeen, she had already had two seasons with very little interest from the gentlemen of society, given that she was a little plain and very shy. No amount of cajoling from her mother had brought her attempts at conversation to any sort of fruition. In short, Alice was a quiet little mouse who was pushed to the shadows.

It had seemed that this marriage was the best solution to her parents’ concerns over her future as well as fulfilling her own dreams. Of course, Alice wanted a husband and family, a home of her own, and to marry the Marquess of Worthington was an honor she simply could not turn down.

Not that she knew very much of him, of course. There had been once or twice when she spotted the man, finding him loud and certainly attractive, but never once speaking to him. To discover that he was being forced into matrimony in many respects did not sit well with her, but to refuse would bring shame and scandal to her own family as well as on her own head, and Alice simply could not allow that to happen.

The music began, pulling Alice from her thoughts. It was time. The door opened, and every single head turned towards her. It was overwhelming, and Alice’s stomach immediately began to churn with nerves. She was thankful for the heavy veil that covered her face, sure that she would be pale should anyone have seen her. Taking slow steps forward, she focused on the man at the front of the church waiting for her. It was just as her father had said. He was there, just as her father had promised. Her groom. Her husband to be. Her marquess.